White House Tribal Nations Conference on November 5 in D.C.

President Barack Obama speaks at the White House Tribal Nations Conference on December 3, 2014. Still image from White House video

The seventh White House Tribal Nations Conference will take place on November 5 in Washington, D.C., at a critical juncture for Indian Country.

President Barack Obama has convened the event every year as part of his commitment to upholding the government-to-government relationship between the U.S. and tribes. This year's conference will be the seventh and next to last of his administration.

With that in mind, tribal leaders are being urged to come up with key policy goals that can be implemented before Obama leaves office. Jackie Pata, the executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, said time is running out to make a difference.

“Really we probably only really have the next six to nine months to institutionalize policy before they get into a mode that they can't move anything else," Pata told tribal leaders on Monday at the opening of NCAI's annual meeting in San Diego, California. As the November 2016 election approaches, she said it will be harder to implement or finalize changes.

Last year's White House Tribal Nations Conference brought about some key initiatives for Indian Country. Just days after Vice President Joe Biden called for the inclusion of Alaska in the Violence Against Women Act, Congress took action and now tribes in the state can exercise jurisdiction over non-Indian offenders just like their counterparts in the lower 48.

Obama also launched Generation Indigenous, a government-wide initiative aimed at improving the lives of American Indian and Alaska Native youth. The effort led to the historic White House Tribal Youth Gathering in July. Native youth will once again be a focus at this year's event.

"This year's Tribal Nations Conference is absolutely so important for us," Pata said.

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